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Friday, August 12, 2011


In the beginning of Ramayana the aadhikaavya, the story-line is explained to poet Valmiki by Sage Narada.. Narada once visits the hermitage of Vaalmiki who was doing penance there after getting transformed into an ascetic from a cruel robber by the turn of fate. The sage Valmiki had come across the name Rama and the very word had become a mantra for him and he was curious to know what the person bearing that name would be like. So when, as if by the bounty of divine Grace, the great sage Narada visits him, valmiki bombards him with questions as to who would be the greatest person who ever lived on this earth who was virtuous, powerful, knowledgeable, truthful, grateful, with utmost self-control, who has anger under control, who emits splendour, whose fame is beyond any cloud, and who will be terrible even to gods if provoked in battle. Narada is pleased by this query and takes this opportunity to recount briefly the whole story of Rama in about ninety couplets. This is the essence of Ramayanam. “The king popularly called Rama, who is ruling the world today would answer all the requirements of Valmaiki. He is born in the illustrious race of Ikshwaaku. Rama has absoulte control over his mind, thoughts and actions. He is very powerful, radiates splendour, very determined, and has all his senses under full control. He is intelligent, sagacious and eloquent, is bathing in glory and is the complete exterminator of his enemies. He has broad shoulders, powerful arms, and attractive neck in the shape of a conch, and has a stout chin. He has a broad chest, a mighty bow and a collar bone covered with hard flesh, and he is always capable of subduing any enemy in combat. His unusually long arms when put down reaches up to his knee and his head is well formed, the forehead is attractive and his gait is majestic. He is of medium build, neither too tall or too short, neither too fat or too lean, His limbs are well-proportioned, his complexion is unctuous, he possesses rounded chest, large eyes, is full of splendour and he carries in his body auspicious and divine marks. He knows the essence of the holy scriptures and is always good to his words. His eternal lookout is for the welfare of his people. He is illustrious and wise, honest and steadfast in his dealings and his absolute control of his own self embellishes him like an aura. His thoughts are focused and to the point, very sharp and acute. He is like the Prajapati in protecting the creations, he is endowed with great wealth, he is the annihilator of his enemies, and he is the protector of virtues. He is the vindicator of his own ordained duties and looks after his own people with equal alacrity. He possesses the ultimate knowledge in the four vedas and six saastraas. He is the last word in the knowledge of the science of archery. Having deep knowledge in the real import of vedas and sastras and endowed with a very sharp memory and quick wit, he is the icon for all the world. He is pious minded. As the rivers find their final destination in the ocean all high minded people seek him and are blessed with his company. He is noble, and exhibits equal favour to all and is always of a very pleasant countenance. He is the ultimate in all that is excellent in the universe and his fame is always an eternal source of great pleasure to his blessed mother Kousalya. He vies with the ocean in profundity and the great Himalaya in firmness. He is the relplica of Vishnu in valour and resembles the moon in pleasantness. When he is provoked to anger, he would be like the kalaagni or the insatiable fire at the time of destruction of all creations (pralaya) . At the same time he resembles the earth in forbearance. He is eqaual to the lord of wealth Kubera in liberality and is synonymous with Dharmaraja when it comes to the question of protecting and upholding of Truth. Rama is the benchmark for all that is splendid. Sage Narada continues his discourse on the story of Rama. " King Dasartha desired that he should anoint Rama endowed with such great qualities as already described, as the heir-apparent (yuvaraja). Rama was the eldest of Dasaratha's sons in age, Bharatha, Lakshmana and Shatrugna following him. Rama was also the tallest in all virtues. He was also the favourite son for the king. And by all means this was the most appropriate decision taken by a king whose highest priority was the welfare of his subjects as Rama was uniformly adored and respected by all the people in Ayodhya. Dasartha had three wives, Kausalya, Kaikeyi and Sumitra, and Rama was the son of Kausalya, Bharatha's mother was Kaikeyi and Sumitra delivered the twins Laksmana and Shatrugna .When Kaikeyi saw the preparations for the anointment of Rama as the yuvaraja, her ambition to see that her son Bharatha should become the yuvaraja was kindled. Here it must be noted that Bharatha was not availble in Ayodhya at that time. He had gone on a visit to his uncle's kingdome Kekaya, along with shatrugna. If Bharatha had been present Ramayana would not have proceeded any further. Kaikeyi had once saved the life of her husband Dasaratha by preventing a wheel of a chariot from dislocating itself causing fatal results while he was fighting a war with Shambaraasura and then Dasaratha had granted her two boons which she had deferred to execute. But now to win the kingdom for her son she exercised her option by demanding the king that Bharatha should become the yuvaraja and Rama should be exiled. The king who was bound by dharma and by his solemn promise was left with no option other than asking Rama to abdicate and proceed to the forest. Without any protest, and eager to fulfill the promise of his father and eager of doing a nice turn to his stepmother, Rama decided to undertake the life in forest for fourteen years. Rama's dearest brother and the source of all happiness to Sumitra, Lakshmana could not think of a life other than in the company of Rama and as a role-model for brotherly affection, he also decided to accompany Rama wherever he went. Seetha the consort of Rama and for whom Rama was dear to her even more than her own life also had no hesitation in accompanying him to forest.. Seetha was the perfect woman, with all the elements of beauty endowed to her in abundance as if she was created by the artists of the Heaven, and she was the noblest in her character and she was the ideal wife to the inimitable Rama. The celestial star Rohini, the favourite wife of the Moon always seeks the company of the Moon and Seetha was similar to that in her devotion to Rama.
Rama, in the company of Seetha and Lakshmana set out for forest and was accompanied by the king Dasaratha and all the subjects of Ayodhya in grief, for a long distance. They were persuaded to return to Ayodhya, and Sumanthra (the sootha and charioteer) took the three to the banks of Ganga where the town Sringivera (puram) was situated. Rama met his longtime friend and the chief of Nishadas (a hunter community), Guha, and with his help crossed the Ganga and entered the forest. The threesome walked long distances from forest to forest and crossed many rivers brimming with water and reached the hermitage of sage Bharadhwaaja. Following the directions of the great sage, they settled down in Chitrakoota in a beautiful hut built by Lakshmana. They were living there happily as if they were devas and gandharvas descended to earth. Sumanthra returned to Ayodhya declaring the departure of Rama to the forest and unable to bear the sorrow of separation, king Dasaratha shrugged off his moral coils and left for his heavenly abode. Bharatha was summoned back and the preceptors with the prime minister Vasishta in the lead requested Bharatha to assume the duties of the king. Bharatha refused assume the Royal duties when his elder brother was alive and languishing in the forest. Immediately he proceeded to the forest, taking with him the ministers and accompanied by a large number of loyal subjects and met Rama and begged him to return to Ayodhya to become the king. But the valorous Rama who valued the promise of his father more than the enjoyment of the Kingdom, decline to return to Ayodhya before the prescribed fourteen years even in the face of all the earnest entreaties by Bharatha. Finally it was decided that Rama's paadukaas ( the sandals) would represent him as the king and receiving the sandals with all respect and dejected that he could not accomplish his mission to take back Rama to Ayodhya, Bharatha returned to the kingdom reluctantly and anointing the sandals of Rama as the ruler, Bharatha adopted the life of an ascetic and ruled the kingdom staying in a hamlet called Nandigrama (about 14 miles from ayodhya) as a mere representative of the sandals of Rama, always eagerly awaiting the return of Rama to take back the reins of the Kingdom. The story till now is a saga of sacrifice. Dasratha sacrificed his son and his life to protect a promise. Rama sacrificed the kingdom to uphold the promise of his father. Lakshmana and Seetha sacrificed all worldly comforts just to keep the company of Rama. Bharatha, for whom the kingdom was righlfully his could not even think of Royal positions in the absence of his elder brother. The ambitious Kaikeyi was defeated and lost her husband and the affection of her son in the bargain. The only winner was dharma.. The anointment of Rama's sandals is even greater than the Pattabhishekam of Rama, which represents the culmination of the story of Ramayanam.
After Bharatha and the ministers left along with the citizens of Ayodhya, Rama thought that he would be accessible to them if he remained in Chitrakuuta and there could be more visits and keen on keeping the promise given to his father Rama did not want to have such visits. Hence the lotus eyed Rama proceeded further south into the deep Dandaka Forests . He slayed the ogre Viraadha on his way. There he met great sages Sharabhanga, Sutheekshna, Agastya and his brother Idhmavaahana. As desired by the great Sage Agastya Rama received from him a bow, a sword and a pair of quivers which would always carry inexhaustible number of arrows. The weapons were earlier given to Sage Agastya by the lord of heaven, Indra. All the great sages living in the forest paid visits to Rama and reported to him about the atrocities perpetrated by the demons and ogres living around them and in the nearby Janastaana. Rama gave a promise to all the sages who were equal to fire in penance that he would slay all the demons and ogres and bring peace to them. In the meantime a demoness named Shuurpanakha ( who assumed the name because her nails were as large as a winnowing fan) visited Rama in the disguise of a beautiful damsel, requesting him to marry her after abandoning Seetha. The amused Rama suggested Laksmana for her as a better match and when Lakshmana was approached with her amorous entreaties, at first he tried to drive her away tactfully and when she persisted as a nuisance and started threatening him after assuming her real huge ugly form, Lakshmana had no hesitation in cutting off her nose and breasts and drive her away. The injured Shoorpanakha ran to her brothers Khara, Duushana and Thrisiras who were the chieftains of the demons in Jalastana. They came for a war with Rama and Rama facing them all alone slayed the three demons and also their army consisting of fourteen thousand raakshasaas. The three demons were the cousins of the Strong King of Lanka, Ravana, and on hearing their disaster and the disfigurement of his only sister Shuurpanakha, the enraged Ravana decided to wreak venegeance on Rama. For executing his combative plans against Rama, Ravana sought the help of his uncle Maareecha. Maareecha had already had very bitter experience with Rama when her mother Thadaga and his brother subhaahu were killed by Rama and Maareecha could escape narrowly after a long flight. Mareecha advised Ravana not to purchase trouble from Rama but the advice fell on deaf ears. The previous section saw Rama conquering fourteen thousand warriors with Khara, Dooshana and Trishiras in the vanguard. The leader of the rakshasaas and the monarch of Lanka, Ravana, hearing about the disaster to his kin, decided to wreak venegeance on Rama and sought the help of his maternal uncle Mareecha who was a master at deception. Maariicha knew about the valour of Rama and cautioned Ravana against attracting Rama's wrath. Ravana ignored Maariicha's advice and forcibly took him for company and went near the hut of Rama. Maaricha was forcibly employed to take the guise of a golden antelope and go near the abode of Rama, and Seetha, on seeing the antelope got attracted to it and requested Rama to capture the animal for her. Rama went in pursuit of the deer and was led to far off distances by the wily Maaricha. Finally the demon was felled by Rama's arrow but at the time of death he cried out, "Lakshmana, Seetha, I am in danger" mimicking the voice of Rama. Seetha believed that Rama was in real danger and forced Lakshmana to run for the rescue of his elder brother. When Seetha was alone, Ravana disguised himself as a mendicant sage and when Seetha went near him to receive him believing that he was a hermit, captured Seetha and tried to fly away to Lanka in his Pushpaka Vimaanam. The elderly falcon, Jataayu, an old friend of King Dasaratha, attacked Ravana in the air, but was cut down and injured mortally by the sword of Ravana.. Rama came back to the hut and saw the falcon on the throes of death and found Seetha missing. Jatayu was alive just to inform about the abduction of Seetha by Ravana. Rama performed the last rites of the falcon and utterly desolate, wandered round the forest in search of Seetha. Deep in the forest he saw an ogre which had only torso, named Kabandha and slayed him. The Kabandha was a celestial being and got its deliverance from a curse on being killed and burned by Rama. While returning to heaven, Kabandha requested Rama to visit a pious hermitess named Sabari.. Taking the advice of Kabhanda, Rama visited Sabari, living in the Ashram of sage Matanga, near the Rishyamooka hills.
While proceeding further after being offered devoted worship by the blemish less Sabari, Rama happened to see a monkey named Hanuman..(Maybe this is one of the greatest encounters between two godheads that could ever have happened). Hanuman led Rama (and Lakhmana) to Sugriva, the exiled brother of the king of monkeys, Vaali. Rama narrated to Sugriva all that had happened culminating in the abduction of Seetha. Sugriva was prepared to help Rama and the two cemented their friendship in the presence of fire as witness. Sugriva then told his tale of misery.. He was exiled by his elder brother Vaali from Kishkinda, the kingdom of monkeys. Vaali had also forcibly taken away Sugriva's wife Ruma. The enmity between the brothers arose like this. Vaali was once having a very long duel with the mighty demon Dundhubhi. During the fight the two had entered a cave and Vaali had instructed Sugriva to close the entrance of the cave and wait for his return. Sugriva waited for months but there was nothing to be heard of Vaali. Once he saw blood oozing out of the closed cave and believed that Vaali had died. So Sugriva went back to Kishkindha and made himself the King. After very long fight with Dundhubi, Vaali emerged victorious in the end and throwing out the carcass of Dundubhi, came back to Kishkinda in triumph. When he found that Sugriva had occupied his throne, he became enraged and the powerful elder brother chased out Sugriva in a bid to finish him off. Sugriva knew that Vaali was prohibited by a curse from climbing the Rishyamooka hills and hence retreated to these hills along with some of his most faithful ministers like Hanuman and Jambavaan. Sugriva extracted the promise from Rama that he would kill Vaali and restroe Kishkinda to Sugriva in return to his help to gain back the abducted Seetha. However Sugreeva was skeptical about the prowess of Rama to vanquish Vaali, and, as if to test him showed him the huge skeleton of the demon Dundubhi. Rama smiled slightly and just nudged the huge skeleton with his big toe and the skeleton flew away a full ten yojanaas (yojana is the indian measure of distance...the distance that could be covered by a bullock cart in a day's time..and there are different views placing one yojana at five to eight kilometers). In addition Rama also razed to earth seven huge palmyrah trees with one arrow and the impact was so huge that the hillocks nearby as well as the nether worlds up to Rasaathala trembled in unison. The most significant incident in this part of the story is the meeting of the two titans Rama and Hanuman. The story of Rama as narrated by sage Naarada to Vaalmiki continues. Sugriiva, being skeptical of the strength of Rama was convinced of his prowess from the way he handled the skeleton of Dundubhi and the seven palmyrah trees. Now confident of defeating Vaali, Sugreeva proceded to Kishkinda, the kingdom of monkeys built like a cave in the midst of mountains, in the company of Rama and Lakshmana. He let out a war cry standing at the gates of Kishkinda. Vaali came out to see the disturbance. His wife Thara also accompanied him. Thara, having heard of the prowess of Rama and now seeing him in person had a hunch that He was lord Narayana himself. She requested Vaali not to fight with Sugreeva as he was under the protection of the great Rama. Vaali ignored her and engaged himself in a mortal combat with Sugriiva. Rama slayed Vaali with a single arrow. After convincing the great Vaali that he had committed grave sins in torturing his brother and forcibly taking away his wife and that he has been punished with death for that, Rama honoured the death of Vaali and then installed Sugreeva as the king of Kishkinda. Sugriiva, in good time, mustered all his lieutenants and sent them out in all directions to searach for Seetha. The strongest team was sent in the southern direction and it was led by the crown prince Angada and consisted of the greats like Hanuman, Jaambavaan etc. The team reached the southern tip of India but could not find Seetha anywhere. Sugreeva’s order was that Seetha should be found out within a month and if any team returned empty handed the punishment awaiting them was death.
So the monkey team of the south decided to lie down in the beaches of Bay of Bengal and starve to death. They decided that they would discuss the story of Rama while lying down there awaiting death. A huge falcon named Sampaathi, the elder brother of Jataayu was perched in a tree nearby. First he cast his eyes on the monkeys who were lying awaiting death, in eager anticipation that he would have sumptuous food in the near future. But then he listened to the story of Rama, and the narration of abduction of Seetha by Ravana, and the heroic martyrdom of Jataayu.. He was struck with grief on hearing the tidings of the death of his darling younger brother, and his burnt and emaciated wings came to life on hearing the story of Rama. He consoled the monkeys and soared high into the air.. With his keen eyes he could see the city of Lanka and also could have a glimpse of Seetha held in captivity in the Ashokavana in Lanka by Ravana. Hearing this the monkeys were overjoyed. But then came the question as to how to reach Lanka. Every monkey including the prince Angada were at a loss as to what to do further.
Then the wise Jaambavaan, the boar, remembered the story of Hanuman, the Aanjaneya. The Lord was born from the power of Lord Shiva himself carried through the god of wind to the womb of Anjana.. The great Lord when He was born was very virulent and jumped at the sun to eat it up thinking that it was a fruit. Indra hit the child with his vajraayudha and felled him. Angered at the misfotune of his son the god of winds just stopped working. In a bid to placate him, all the gods worked in unison and revived the child and blessed him with immortality and great powers. Even Brahmadeva had blessed that the arrow brahmstra, the most potent weapon in those days, would not bind him or cause him death. The chin of the child had been slightly deformed because of the impact of Vajraayudha and therefore the child was named Hanuman. He was a naughty child and once he disturbed some sages doing penance in the southern mountains and the angered hermits had cursed him that he would forget all about his valour.. The release from the curse would come when he was reminded of his powers by his colleagues at the proper time. The great dynamite was remaining quiet in the company of Sugriva till now only because of the unfortunate curse. Now that Hanuman was reminded of his past by the great Jambavaan   He regained all His prowess and volunteered to jump over the salty oceans and go to the island Lanka 100 yojanas away and meet Seetha. Accordingly he did jump over to Lanka in a single leap and the greatest story of intelligence and endeavour by a single living being is unravelled in the Sunadarakaandam of Raamaayanam. In Lanka, he met Seetha sitting as if in penance in a garden named Ashokavanam and recounted to her the story of Rama after she had been abducted and assured her that Rama with his army of monkeys will come to Lanka, annihilate Ravana and release her in full honour. As an identification Hanuman handed over a ring Rama had given him with a direction that it should handed over to Seetha as an insignia if and when Seetha was found. Seetha in turn handed over to Hanuman the Choodamani, a head ornament of hers to be presented to Rama on Hanuman's return. Seeing the affluence of the enemy’s kingdom and with the idea of wreaking as much destruction to Lanka as possible Hanuman started destroying the gates of the garden and the favourite trees and plants grown there by Ravana. The army of Ravana was deployed to counter the ferocious monkey. Hanuman first destroyed the army with five full generals in command and killed them entirely, including the five generals. Then another army was deployed with the seven illustrious sons of Ravana's ministers in command. It did not take much time for Anjaneya to finish off all the seven with their army. Then Ravana's son Akshakumara came to fight with the divine monkey and was not only killed by Hanumaan but also practically mashed to pulp. Then came Indrajit the eldest son of Ravana.
By this time Hanuman knew that it was time for him to meet Ravana and deliver a warning message to him. So when Indrajit sent the Brahmaastra on Lord Anjaneya, even though he knew that by the blessing of Brahma himself the weapon would not bind him, he submitted to the Asthra out of respect for Brahma. Aanjaneya was taken to the court of Ravana, and there he announced to Ravana that he had purchased death for himself and annihilation to his clan by abducting Maatha Seetha. The enraged Ravana wanted to put Hanuman to death but was adviced by his counsels that a messenger should never be killed. So it was decided to deform the monkey by putting fire to his tail. When his tail was lit by agni, Lord Anjaneya did not feel any pain because of His own divine nature and also because of the prayers of Seetha. He used the fire for the best purpose. He placed his burning tail on all the buildings and storehouses and army camps in Lanka and the whole Lanka except the Ashokavana was like a towering inferno. After seeing the best of Lanka being gobbled up by fire, Hanuman doused the fire dipping his tail in the Bay of Bengal and coolly jumped back to India, His mission successful. The monkeys led by Anjaneya jumped back to Kishkinda and Hanuman, after paying respects to Rama and after doing clockwise circumambulation (pradakshinam) to him announced him that He had seen Seetha in Lanka. This is the most glorious part of Ramaayanam where it is proved beyond doubt that there is no one ever born to emulate the great Anjaneya.
Sage Naarada continues with his narrative on Sri Rama. On being informed that Sita was kept in captivity by Ravana in the Ashokavana of Lanka and that she has been seen by Hanumaan. Rama in the company of Sugriva proceeded to the southern coast of India. He could not easily find a way to cross the sea and reach Lanka to defeat Ravana and retrieve Seetha. In great anger Rama showered arrows at the sea and the frightened King of Seas appeared before Rama and explained to him that a bridge could be built in the sea to reach Lanka with the help of Nala the monkey, the minister of Sugriva and the son of the divine architect Vishwakarma. The bridge was built. In the meanwhile Vibheeshana the youngest brother of Ravana was insulted by his elder brother for arguing that it was wrong on the part of Ravana to have abducted Seetha and was banished from Lanka and took refuge in Sri Rama. Reaching Lanka, Rama waged a valiant war against Ravana and with the help of valorous Hanumaan finally felled Ravana. Seetha was free now. But Rama was ashamed to face the public gossip that would follow if he received back Seetha who had been kept in an alien land all alone for so long. So he uttered very harsh words about the purity of Seetha in the presence of the Public. Seetha could not tolerate the insult and she decided to enter fire and give up her life. The fire was lit and Seetha entered the burning fire but the fire could not withstand the intensity of her chastity, and the god of fire emerged in human form taking Seetha with him and declaring that the daughter of Janaka was purity personified. For this action the divine couple were praised in all the three worlds. The gods, sages and all celestial beings were pleased at the fall of Ravana and showered praise on Rama. Rama then ensured that Vibheeshana was anointed as the king of Lanka. Having regained Seetha, and having convinced the world of her purity through the test by fire, Rama was very happy in the company of Seetha. He sought and obtained boons from the Gods that all the warriors in his side who had laid down their lives in the battle should be brought back to life. Then he started off to Ayodhya by the Pushpakavimaanam in the company of Sugreeva and Vibhiishana and the whole army of monkeys. He was given a warm reception by Sage Bharadwaja in his hermitage en-route to Ayodhya. Rama sent Hanuman to Bharatha in Nandigrama with the news of his victorious comeback to Ayodhya. Finally Rama with his huge entourage landed up in Ayodhya to receive a warm welcome from Bharatha and the entire populace. He was anointed as the King of Ayodhya by the sages led by Vasishta and thus the rule of righteousness, the Ramaraajyam became a reality.

The moment of Pattabhishekam is described isn Ramayanam as follows "When the muhurtham for pattabhishekam arrived, the elderaly Vasishta,
followed by other learned people led Rama along with seetha to be seated on a throne made of jewels.. There Vasishta, vaamadeva, jaabali, kashyapa, kaatyaayana, suyajna, gauthama and vijaya, the great sages and ministers of ayodhya, poured holy waters on the royal couple...this resembled the eight vasus performing the abhisheka of the lord of the heaven.. Indra"
The brief narrative of Ramayanam by Narada ends here.

1 comment:

  1. Great commentary on Samkshepa Ramayanam. Thanks Mama!